The results of a new survey reveal strong Republican and evangelical support for meaningful immigration reforms and may suggest that harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric does not resonate with most conservative voters, a leading U.S. immigration advocate said.
“We found really high numbers of self-identified evangelicals and Republicans who support reforms and say that welcoming newcomers is an American value,” said Jennie Murray, president of the National Immigration Forum.
She spoke about a new survey her organization conducted in February with The Bullfinch Group.
“We found that there is incredible support among conservatives, Republicans and evangelicals for immigration reforms that are humane and sensible. I think that shows that the moment we’re in right now is not a policy debate, but a cultural conversation.”
The poll found 79% of white evangelical Protestants favor measures to increase border security, provide pathways to citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and ensure a reliable workforce for the nation’s farmers and ranchers. Support among Republicans was 74%, with 16% opposed and the rest unsure.
Among all registered voters, 76% agreed that Democrats and Republicans in Congress should cooperate on boosting border security, helping Dreamers become citizens and provide a legal migrant workforce for farmers and ranchers, compared to 14% who were opposed.
The research also uncovered significant support for migrants seeking asylum in the United States.
“Strong majorities also said they would support ‘the U.S. providing refuge for individuals and families fleeing serious persecution and torture’ (68%-20% overall, 55%-35% among Republicans) and would agree ‘that welcoming newcomers to our communities is an American value’ (71%-20% overall, 58%-33% among Republicans),” the report said.
“To have 79% of evangelicals who support versus 9% of evangelicals who are opposed to immigration reform — that’s huge.”
Murray said she was astonished by the findings: “To have 79% of evangelicals who support versus 9% of evangelicals who are opposed to immigration reform — that’s huge.”
The polling results represent a rejection of the harsh anti-immigrant language that marked Donald Trump’s presidency, she said. “The kind of anti-immigrant rhetoric that used to have so much power doesn’t seem to hold water anymore. It may have been a political moment that played itself out. But it’s going away and now you have people saying, ‘That’s not who we are.’”
The forum and Bullfinch Group survey, which polled 1,200 U.S. adults Feb. 17-22, also showed Americans want solutions to immigration challenges, not just rhetoric.
“That begins to show the power of the polling we have been doing, which shows the majority of our country is moderate (on immigration). That’s an important trend to highlight because it allows legislators to see they can get away from the politics of this because they have the support of the voters.”
Murray noted the results of the new survey are similar to those of a poll released last month by Fox News.
Fox reported Feb. 26 that 74% of voters want the U.S. to increase federal agents at the southern border and 73% favor boosting the number of immigration judges to speed up the asylum process.
“They also favor making it easier to immigrate (73%), which would presumably incentivize people to choose legal pathways to the U.S.,” Fox News said. “Slightly more voters favor allowing illegal immigrants with jobs in the U.S. to stay and apply for legal status (66% favor) than support deporting them back to their home countries (58%).”
Taken together, the two surveys should influence conservative politicians to consider supporting immigration reforms that strengthen the border, welcome asylum seekers and lift up the workforce and economy, Murray said. “It’s really interesting that there was strong alignment between the two polls.”
To make maximum use of the forum’s study, it will be disseminated to the organization’s national security, law enforcement, business and faith community partners to lobby the White House and members of Congress.
“We’re lifting up the voices of our constituencies who support immigrants and to help them say, ‘Look, this political playbook for immigration that is polarizing is just not accurate anymore. Americans are clearly agreed that they want a strengthened border, a humane response to Dreamers and support for American farmers and ranchers.’”